From my garden in Utrecht I hear the Saturday noon-time carillon bell concert, this week featuring the Village People’s YMCA, ABBA’s Mama Mia, and Daft Punk’s Get Lucky. Venturing out I find the city center is closed to auto traffic and the streets are festooned with pink balloons, rainbow flags, pink unicorns and hearts, and packed with pink-clad revelers. A flamingo-themed dance stage at Neude, live music stages in the Dom Square and behind the town hall, a student stage at Janskerkhof, a kid’s area with a bouncy castle, puppet shows and its own DJ, the large crosswalk on Lange Veitstraat painted in rainbow stripes, and rainbow flags fluttering on the Dom tower along with the national flag. Yes, it’s Pink Saturday in Utrecht!
Meanwhile, back in the USA, this week the US Supreme Court issued two much-awaited decisions: one striking down a federal law, DOMA, denying federal benefits to legally married gay couples; the other striking down a California law, Proposition 8, prohibiting gay marriage passed by voters just months after the California Supreme Court held such marriages were legal. However, the latter was not a ruling on the merits of the gay marriage ban but on a technicality; the State of California refused to defend Proposition 8 and the group defending it had no standing to do so. That decision thus affects only California. So, the long and short of it, in the USA, legally married gay couples are now entitled to the same federal benefits as all married couples. But gay marriage is legal in only thirteen states, now including California, and the rulings have no effect on the remaining states, 29 states of which have outlawed gay marriage. And now in California, as thousands of gay couples rush to marry, backers of Proposition 8 are making another emergency effort to block gay marriage.
In contrast, the Netherlands became the first country to legalize gay marriage in 2001. Well before then, gay sex has been legal since 1811, openly gay people have been allowed to serve in the military since 1974, are protected by anti-discrimination laws in employment and the provision of goods and services, and can legally adopt children. Pink Saturday was originally a gay protest held on the last Saturday in June of 1977 against the US anti-gay campaign led by hate-monger Anita Bryant, and quickly became an annual event held in a different city in the Netherlands each year. However, what began as a protest is now an annual celebration of diversity, equality and love.
This year Utrecht is, as ever, the hostess with the mostest! Music, celebration and revelry both indoors and outdoors into the wee hours, Pink sporting events, Pink camping, everyone involved, I even spotted a Dutch Government Pride banner with the insignia lions in purple holding a rainbow shield. After all the heated controversy, commentary, and drama from across the pond this week, Pink Saturday descended like a cotton-candy cloud of lightness, cheer and goodwill. Politics and legal debate wilt as the sun glimpses through the summer clouds, and for once this June, nothing is raining on this parade!